Assembly Republicans Propose Additional $500 Million to K-12 Education

By John Forester | May 22, 2019

From WisPolitics.com …

Assembly Republicans today pledged to pump an additional $500 million into K-12 education, including the first increase in special education aid in more than a decade.

The proposal still falls well short of the $1.4 billion that Gov. Tony Evers proposed for K-12. But Assembly Republicans said it was an approach the state could afford and builds upon their “historic” investment in education in the current biennium.

Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, also said final details were still being worked out with Senate Republicans ahead of tomorrow’s Joint Finance vote on K-12 education. Both expressed optimism they were close on the details.

The Assembly GOP plan includes:

*raising revenue limits by $200 per student in the first year of the budget and an additional $204 in the second year. Some of that increase would be paid for by property tax increases.

*$50 million more in funding for special education, a 13 percent increase.

*an additional $20 million for student mental health.

*an additional $4.6 million for high-cost transportation.

*raising the revenue caps for low-spending districts to $10,000 over the next two years. They’re now at $9,400.

Evers’ budget was projected to result in an increase in property tax bills of $56 in the first year of the budget and $48 in the second year. That amounts to an increase of 2 percent and 1.6 percent.

Vos said the Assembly GOP plan would result in increases of less than 1 percent.

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Re-Issuing State Budget Alert – Please Respond ASAP!

By John Forester | May 21, 2019

Many thanks to those that have contacted the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) members and their legislators in response to the SAA’s State Budget Alert issued last Thursday.

Several SAA members have shared with me that their GOP legislators are indicating they are feeling no pressure to increase special education funding substantially.

For that reason, we are re-issuing (see below) our State Budget Alert and urging all SAA members that have yet to respond to the alert to contact JFC members and their legislators ASAP in support of the SAA priority budget positions.  It is vitally important that lawmakers hear the school administrator voice at this critical point in the state budget process.

Remember, the JFC will act on K-12 education issues this Thursday morning.  This is our last opportunity to influence JFC members.  Let’s make it count.

 

PRIORITY STATE BUDGET ALERT

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) plans to vote on the K-12 education portion of the State Budget on Thursday, May 23rd.

From the very beginning of the 2019-21 State Budget process, we have known that Governor Evers’ budget priorities, including the proposed $1.4 billion increase for K-12 education, would require revenue generated by the proposed Medicaid expansion, the proposed cap on the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit and the proposed limitation on the exclusion for nonfarm capital gains.

However, the first motion adopted by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) on May 9th removed those three items (and 128 others) from budget consideration leaving an enormous divide between Governor Evers and the GOP on K-12 funding and other budget needs.  Capitol sources have indicated that GOP members of the JFC tentatively plan to support increasing K-12 funding by about $450-$500 million.

SAA members have done an outstanding job up to now in our state budget advocacy efforts with fabulous testimony at the JFC hearings as well as the extensive communications individual members have had with their legislators.

Yes, we have done a great job up till now.  But, if we don’t take this final opportunity to influence JFC members, we risk further erosion of K-12 funding increases.

So, I implore you to act once again on behalf of the children you serve.  Today, I urge every single SAA member to contact the 16 members of the Joint Finance Committee, as well as your own legislators, in support of our top budget priorities.

For your convenience in contacting your own legislators, I have provided links to the Senate Directory, the Assembly Directory and Who Are My Legislators.  Simply encourage these legislators to:

  1. Support at least a $200 per pupil general revenue increase in each year of the biennium. Explain the importance of these increases in both fiscal and human terms.  In particular, emphasize the impact on educational opportunities for the kids you serve.
  1. Support a substantial increase in funding for special education. It is important to explain your district’s fund 10 to fund 27 transfer.  As you know, some legislators have been loudly balking at increasing special education funding and even spreading misinformation about how special education services are funded.  Please use the SAA Special Education Talking Points in your communication.
  1. Support a substantial increase in funding for school-age mental health.
  1. Support for school funding that is “spendable”. In recent state budgets, policymakers have commonly increased school levy credits or increased general aid with no corresponding revenue limit increase.  I call this “school funding in name only”.  It simply flows to taxpayers as property tax relief and school districts cannot spend one dime of it on the educational needs of children.

I’m so proud of your budget advocacy this session.  But, we need to put an exclamation point on it.  I know you are busy, but I need you to make these contacts by day’s end on Wednesday, May 22nd.  Let’s carry the fight just a little bit longer.

Let’s get it done!  Thanks.

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GOP Considers Splitting Budget Into Two Bills

By John Forester | May 21, 2019

From WisPolitics.com …

GOP legislative leaders are considering splitting the budget into two bills — one that would outline spending and the other containing policy — in an attempt to get around the guv’s partial veto authority.

Gov. Tony Evers has the most powerful partial veto authority in the country, but can only use it on legislation that includes appropriations. Splitting the budget into two bills would mean Evers couldn’t rework policy Republicans want to include as part of the plan and would be forced to either sign the full bill or veto it.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told WisPolitics.com he likes the idea of splitting the budget into two bills, but was still studying any possible downsides and said no final decision has been made about whether to send one bill or two to Evers.

He said the possible approach was born out of frustration among GOP lawmakers that Evers doesn’t want to “negotiate or talk about any of the topics in his budget.”

“If we can’t negotiate, this is at least something we should consider,” Vos said.

An Evers spokeswoman said it was the first the guv’s office has heard of Republicans considering the option and didn’t have an immediate comment. But Dem Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a member of the Finance Committee, said Republicans seemed to be “begging” Evers to veto the budget.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Vos spoke with WisPolitics.com about the possible two-bill approach during the GOP state convention in Oshkosh this weekend. Fitzgerald said he has discussed the option with his caucus, but referred other questions to Vos.

It would likely be a first since the state moved to an executive budget in 1931. Prior to that, individual bills were introduced for each agency. In the 88 years since, every budget has been signed into law as one act, according to a history from the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Still, Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1987 proposed separate budget bills for revenue, transportation, natural resources and the capital budget and in 1989 had separate proposals for natural resources and transportation. In both cases, the Joint Finance Committee combined them into one bill, according to LRB. In 1995, Thompson submitted a separate transportation bill, and that was signed into law outside the executive budget.

Vos pointed out Republicans split Act 10 into two bills in 2011 with Senate Dems leaving the state and denying the chamber the quorum needed to take up fiscal legislation. With Dems still largely out of the state, Republicans pushed through the Senate the policy provisions.

Wisconsin guvs have the ability to veto language and dollar amounts in bills that include an appropriation. But Evers can’t create new words by striking an individual letter and can’t combine parts of two or more sentences to create a new once.

Insiders have been watching to see how Evers might use his partial veto authority on the budget Republicans send to him. The going belief has been that if Evers wasn’t able to reshape the document to his liking with his partial veto authority, he would consider nixing the entire document. A full veto would be a first since the switch to executive budgets in 1931.

Vos said he has spoken with the Fiscal and Reference bureaus on how the two-bill approach might work. He said a decision on whether to do the budget in one bill or two wouldn’t need to be made until just before the floor votes in both houses.

Erpenbach, D-Middleton, called the scenario frustrating and called on GOP leaders to sit down with Evers.

“It’s like they’re doing everything they can to not sit down with him, not work with him, not take any of his suggestions with any seriousness at all,” he said.

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Public Instruction Budget Papers

By John Forester | May 20, 2019

Here are the LFB Budget Papers that the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) will work from during their Executive Session on K-12 education this Thursday.

General School Aids & Revenue Limits

Categorical Aids 

Choice, Charter & Open Enrollment

Administrative & Other Funding

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No Progress Apparent Between Evers, GOP Lawmakers

By John Forester | May 20, 2019

This news story by Mark Sommerhauser of the Wisconsin State Journal effectively sums up the budget situation in Madison as the Joint Finance Committee prepares to take up the K-12 education portion of the 2019-21 state budget.  Check it out here.

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State Budget Alert: Your Response Needed

By John Forester | May 16, 2019

THIS IS A PRIORITY LEGISLATIVE ALERT

FOR YOUR IMMEDIATE ACTION

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) plans to vote on the K-12 education portion of the State Budget on Thursday, May 23rd.

From the very beginning of the 2019-21 State Budget process, we have known that Governor Evers’ budget priorities, including the proposed $1.4 billion increase for K-12 education, would require revenue generated by the proposed Medicaid expansion, the proposed cap on the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit and the proposed limitation on the exclusion for nonfarm capital gains.

However, the first motion adopted by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) on May 9th removed those three items (and 128 others) from budget consideration leaving an enormous divide between Governor Evers and the GOP on K-12 funding and other budget needs.  Capitol sources have indicated that GOP members of the JFC tentatively plan to support increasing K-12 funding by about $450-$500 million.

SAA members have done an outstanding job up to now in our state budget advocacy efforts with fabulous testimony at the JFC hearings as well as the extensive communications individual members have had with their legislators.

Yes, we have done a great job up till now.  But, if we don’t take this final opportunity to influence JFC members, we risk further erosion of K-12 funding increases.

So, I implore you to act once again on behalf of the children you serve.  Today, I urge every single SAA member to contact the 16 members of the Joint Finance Committee, as well as your own legislators, in support of our top budget priorities.

For your convenience in contacting your own legislators, I have provided links to the Senate Directory, the Assembly Directory and Who Are My Legislators.  Simply encourage these legislators to:

  1. Support at least a $200 per pupil general revenue increase in each year of the biennium. Explain the importance of these increases in both fiscal and human terms.  In particular, emphasize the impact on educational opportunities for the kids you serve.
  1. Support a substantial increase in funding for special education. It is important to explain your district’s fund 10 to fund 27 transfer.  As you know, some legislators have been loudly balking at increasing special education funding and even spreading misinformation about how special education services are funded.  Please use the SAA Special Education Talking Points in your communication.
  1. Support a substantial increase in funding for school-age mental health.
  1. Support for school funding that is “spendable”. In recent state budgets, policymakers have commonly increased school levy credits or increased general aid with no corresponding revenue limit increase.  I call this “school funding in name only”.  It simply flows to taxpayers as property tax relief and school districts cannot spend one dime of it on the educational needs of children.

I’m so proud of your budget advocacy this session.  But, we need to put an exclamation point on it.  I know you are busy, but I need you to make these contacts by day’s end on Wednesday, May 22nd.  Let’s carry the fight just a little bit longer.

Let’s get it done!  Thanks.

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LFB: Additional $753 Million in State Revenue Available for 2019-21 Budget

By John Forester | May 15, 2019

From WisPolitics.com …

The state is projected to have nearly $2.9 billion in additional money to spend over the next two years after the Legislative Fiscal Bureau today upped its revenue estimates through mid-2021.

The state was already expecting healthy revenue growth for the next budget compared to the current biennium. But today’s re-estimate from LFB adds $753 million more in projected general fund tax collections through the end of the upcoming budget.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, cautioned much of that projected growth is one-time money as businesses continue to adjust to the 2017 overhaul of the federal tax code. He suggested some of the money could be used for road work or to address projects Gov. Tony Evers proposed paying for in his capital budget through borrowing.

Joint Finance Committee Co-chair Rep. John Nygren told reporters he wants to see the “vast majority” of the funding put toward the state’s rainy day fund, adding that “it’s the reasonable and responsible thing to do” given the one-time nature of the funding and the potential for a future recession.

According to today’s LFB memo, the revenue boost would result in a $291.1 million transfer to the state’s budget stabilization fund at the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year. LFB Director Bob Lang said the nearly $2.9 billion in additional money the state is expected to have for the 2019-21 budget takes into account that transfer.

“We think we’re being cautious by thinking that way,” the Marinette Republican said.

Still, he added he hasn’t yet spoken with the Senate about the plan.

Read the memo here.

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JFC Executive Session Thursday

By John Forester | May 7, 2019

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) will hold its first Executive Session (voting) of this State Budget session on Thursday, May 9th at 11:00am.  In addition to action on a motion to eliminate 131 items (both fiscal and non-fiscal) Governor Evers included in his Executive Budget, the JFC will also take up the following issue areas:

Capitol sources speculate that K-12 education may be taken up by JFC near the end of May.  But, stay tuned.  These plans are very fluid and can change on a dime.

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General Fund Would See $1.4 Billion Less Under JFC Motion

By John Forester | May 7, 2019

From WisPolitics.com …

The first motion the Joint Finance Committee plans to take up Thursday would result in the general fund seeing $1.4 billion less over the next two years than what Gov. Tony Evers proposed, according to an analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

What’s more, the motion, which includes rejecting Evers’ call to expand Medicaid, would mean nearly $1.1 billion less in federal aid for the 2019-21 budget.

The committee co-chairs last week laid out a proposal to eliminate 131 items Evers included in his budget. While it included some 70 policy items, the planned motion also includes a series of fiscal items, including some tax hikes.

The biggest fiscal impact would be wiping out the Medicaid expansion, which would draw nearly $1.1 billion in federal money. It also would result in the state spending $324.5 million more in general purpose revenue over the next two years than it would’ve under Evers’ plan.

Meanwhile, Republicans are planning to toss Evers’ proposal to cap a tax credit for manufacturers, which would’ve generated $516.6 million for the general fund over the next two years. He also wants to limit the exclusion for nonfarm capital gains, which would’ve generated $505.1 million. But the committee plans to nix that as well.

Other big-ticket items include keeping a transfer to the transportation fund from the general fund. That carries an $87.8 million price tag.

The LFB memo only summarizes the fiscal impact of the motion compared to Evers’ proposal, not current law. For example, in January, the LFB projected the state would have an additional $2.4 billion in GPR to spend through mid-2021.

The offices of the JFC co-chairs didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. An Evers spokeswoman said the administration was still studying the memo.

See the summary of the fiscal impact of the motion starting on page nine.

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JFC to Kill Evers’ Medicaid Expansion Plan; LFB Non-Fiscal Policy Memo

By John Forester | May 2, 2019

From WisPolitics.com …

The Joint Finance Committee’s first actions on Gov. Tony Evers’ budget May 9 will be to pull out a host of his priorities, from expanding Medicaid to allowing illegal immigrants to get driver licenses.

Typically, the JFC co-chairs have the Legislative Fiscal Bureau identify policy items that can be pulled from a guv’s budget.

But in yesterday’s memo, Co-chairs Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and John Nygren, R-Marinette, identified 131 fiscal as well as policy provisions they plan to include in a motion to remove from the document.

Along with the Medicaid expansion — which would save an estimated $324.5 million in general purpose revenue over the biennium — the committee’s first motion will seek to remove the cap the guv proposed on the manufacturing and ag credit. That proposal, which would limit the credit to the first $300,000 of income for manufacturers, would increase tax revenue by $516.6 million, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The other proposals JFC plans to remove from the budget include:

Nygren and Darling pledged GOP lawmakers “will live within our means” while making “major investments in the people’s priorities” going forward.

“We believe the proposed budget by Governor Evers’ digs a Doyle-sized deficit,” the pair said in a release. “The governor spends so much, the next budget would start with a $2 billion structural deficit. The bottom line is his budget is unsustainable, irresponsible and jeopardizes the progress we’ve made in the last eight years.”

In all, the LFB identified more than 70 items as non-fiscal policy, according to Darling and Nygren, which they said is the second-highest number of those items in a guv’s budget plan since 2001.

An Evers spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

The panel is also planning to work off of current law rather than using Evers’ budget as the starting point for its deliberations.

The decision comes after months of speculation over how much or how little members of the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing committee would defer to the guv’s recommendations.

Today’s memo notes that while Evers’ plan will be before committee members, it would take a majority vote to include the guv’s provisions into JFC’s version of the budget — just like it would take a majority vote to adopt a motion from a committee member.

Republicans control the committee 12-4.

JFC members are planning to first take up the Ethics Commission, Historical Society, guv and lt. guv budget sections during their first meeting next week.

They’ll also consider the Department of Administration’s Division of Gambling, the Investment Board, the Employment Relations Commission and the Department of Health Services’ Care and Treatment Services, among several areas.

Members will convene at 11 a.m. May 9 in the Capitol.

See the memo here.

See Nygren’s and Darling’s statement here.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article here.

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